DNA analysis sheds light on Minoan and Mycenaean genetic origins

genes of Minoan Mycenaean genetics
“Saffron Gatherer” from a Minoan fresco in Akrotiri, Santorini. Credit: public domain

For the first time, scientists have obtained genetic material and analyzed the genome sequences of ancient Minoans and Mycenaeans, who lived three to five thousand years ago.

The new analysis suggests that the Minoans and Mycenaeans share much of their genetic makeup.

Dr. Iosif Lazaridis, of Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, and his colleagues focused on the graves of the Minoan civilization, which flourished on the island of Crete from 2,600 to 1,100 BC.

Dr Lazaridis explained that most of the people who created these civilizations appear to be local – coming from 62% to 86% of their ancestors from the people who introduced agriculture to Europe from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to the Neolithic period, about 7,000 years ago. .

Genetic differences and similarities between Minoans and Mycenaeans

But the Mycenaean and Minoan skeletons of the Bronze Age have revealed the ancestry of populations originating from the Caucasus mountains or Iran. Between 9% and 17% of their genetic makeup came from this source.

Besides, the team’s article in the journal Nature Reports, the Mycenaeans – but not the Minoans – show evidence of genetic input from people who lived further north, on the flat grasslands that stretch from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. Between 4% and 16% of their ancestors came from this northern source.

While the Mycenaeans are known to have spoken an early form of Greek, the earliest recorded language spoken by the Minoan people in Crete – known as Linear A – can be read but not translated, implying that it belongs to a separate, but unknown, language group.

Modern Greeks descendants of Mycenaeans

After genetic analysis, the Mycenaeans were also linked to the modern Greek people.

New DNA evidence emerging suggests that the living Greeks are indeed the descendants of the ancient Mycenaeans, who ruled mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from 1600 BC to 1200 BC.

The evidence comes from a study in which scientists analyzed the genes of the teeth of 19 people at various archaeological sites in mainland Greece and Mycenae. A total of 1.2 million letters of the genetic code have been compared to those of 334 people around the world.

Genetic information was also compiled from a group of thirty modern Greek individuals in order to compare them to ancient genomes. This allowed researchers to effectively trace how individuals related to each other.

After comparing the DNA of the modern Greeks to the ancient Mycenaeans, a genetic overlap was discovered which suggests that these ancient Bronze Age civilizations laid the genetic foundation for the contemporary Greek people.

Mycenae, the kingdom of the mythical king Agamemnon, is the most important and richest palatial center of the Late Bronze Age in Greece.

The myths linked to its history have inspired poets and writers over the centuries, from the Homeric epics and the great tragedies of the classical era.

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